Booster Draft is an immensely popular Limited format in which usually 8 players take turns selecting a card out of a booster pack and passing that pack along until all cards from 24 packs have been chosen. If you’ve been playing Magic for any amount of time, chances are good you’ve done a draft at least once. The process was exciting, sure, but now you’re left with your cards and the deck you’ve come up with is wholly unexciting. You might be wondering if you did something wrong. Well, you didn’t exactly do anything wrong- you followed the rules of the draft perfectly- but chances are your deck is missing a crucial element that will make it more than just a 40 card pile: synergy.
As you get better at drafting you’ll start to notice some of your decks are very well put together and some of them are just a hodgepodge. The goal of this article is to touch on some simple things you can do during the draft to make your deck feel better during games and be more consistent. Without going overboard, hopefully by reading this your next draft will go much more smoothly and you’ll be happy with the deck you’ve drafted.
Follow the Signposts
Recently, Wizards has been strategically placing multicolored cards into limited formats that they call “signpost” cards- not only are they very powerful individually, they give the drafter an idea as to what that multicolored combination is most likely doing when drafted correctly. Winding Constrictor, Hidden Stockpile, and Weldfast Engineer in Aether Revolt are individually playable cards that always make the cut, but to unlock their true potential they must be drafted around. Be careful, though; they’re still multicolored cards and picking them too early can be risky if you end up not being in the right colors to play it. Be sure you’re cemented in that color combination before picking up a multicolored card for your deck.
Of course, there’s a lot more synergy going on in a draft format than just a single uncommon can show. The key to drafting a synergistic deck comes with the right mindset, and to achieve that mindset requires practice. Normally drafting costs money, but there are plenty of draft simulators all over the internet that you can use to try and apply this mindset to your drafts. Sometimes your G/B draft decks will be amazing Winding Constrictor decks where you get passed all the Subtle Strikes and Lifecrafter’s Gifts, but they can also be an above-the-curve deck full of beefy cards like Lifecraft Cavalry and quality removal spells like Prey Upon or Monstrous Onslaught to maintain your board advantage. The synergy there isn’t as obvious, but Prey Upon isn’t nearly as effective when your creature is a 2/3!
You can’t just expect to sit down at the table and draft an amazing deck without knowing the format. If you don’t know the signpost cards exist, you can hardly draft with them in mind. Familiarize yourself with a format to know what your first few picks can turn into. For example, Wrangle or Hijack are barely playable cards, fit for only the most aggressive of decks. Throw Defiant Salvager or Embraal Gear-Smasher into the mix and all of a sudden you’ve got a midrange R/B deck that steals the opponent’s creatures to dispose of them for some small bonus. Crazy. But if you’re not aware of that synergy existing, you might not pick up Defiant Salvager hoping to move in on that particular strategy.
Building on that idea, every one of your picks should in some way add to the overall strategy of your deck. Of course, if there’s a Ridgescale Tusker in the pack and your picks so far are leading you toward a blue or white tempo strategy, it’s still fine to take the Tusker because of how absurdly powerful it is. The fact that you got passed a Tusker alone should clue you in on Green being open anyway. If that card is something more like a Druid of the Cowl, that’s probably not where you want to be heading right now. You’re more interested in your Aether Swoopers and Hinterland Drakes.
Another potential indicator of synergy is set mechanics. In Aether Revolt, this means Improvise, Revolt, Vehicles, and Energy. Improvise shows up mostly in Blue and Red, but a few Black cards have improvise too. Revolt is mostly in Green and White but also contains a couple Black cards. Vehicles, naturally, are colorless, with the exception of Peacewalker Colossus, which requires White mana to use it to its full potential. Energy appears frequently in all five colors but works best in Green and Blue. Remember those multicolor signpost cards? Four of them contain set mechanics: Hidden Stockpile, Maverick Thopterist, Renegade Rallier, and Rogue Refiner.
Your Improvise decks will usually be U/R and will slant aggressively because of cards like Aether Swooper and Aether Chaser providing cheap artifacts for your Improvise cards like Sweatworks Brawler. Finding the right balance of artifacts to creatures isn’t easy, so having the right Servo producers is a game-changer. A “Revolt deck” isn’t really a thing like an Improvise deck or Vehicles deck, but the mechanic is powerful and if you pick up a few payoffs you want good enablers. The best enablers are Renegade Map and Unbridled Growth. These can be early pickups for decks looking to splash a bomb so if you know you’re going to be headed in that direction try to pick them before the payoffs.
A Vehicles deck will usually be W/R. Prioritize creatures with above average power, like a 2 mana 3 power creature. In Aether Revolt there are few vehicles, but you’re the only one interested in them. Siege Modification looks bad on paper, but the reward is high enough that taking the risk can be worth it. The Kaladesh booster will have more vehicles at common like Sky Skiff and Renegade Freighter. An Energy deck is quite hard to pull off now as the number of consistent energy producers has lowered drastically. If you’re lucky you can still open some of them, but more often you’ll be utilizing cards like Shipwreck Moray to reach a critical mass of energy. There are still plenty of energy payoff cards, so it’s not important to draft those until you need them.
How Kaladesh Affects the Draft
Only one mechanic is exclusive to the single Kaladesh pack: Fabricate. While B/W still can have a heavy tokens theme, the fabricate cards aren’t as good as they used to be, as the improvise colors, Blue and Red, don’t have any Fabricate cards. Of course, Fabricate still goes well with Defiant Salvager, so don’t just ignore the Fabricate cards as they’re still very relevant. The infinite combos available in Kaladesh are still around, just much less common. If you can manage to find an infinite combo to put in your deck, you can suddenly win games that you might have otherwise lost. Study the set to find infinite combos so that you can pick up a card from the combo that you might not have played otherwise.
Hopefully this article nudged you in the right direction without going off on a tangent about particular strategies. If you want to know more about a certain color pair, look at its cards and try drafting that color pair! Since this was my first article, I acknowledge the possibility that my writing might be a little rough around the edges, but with time and feedback I’ll be sure to improve. Thanks for reading.